Separate is “inherently unequal,” the Supreme Court declared nearly 70 years ago. Today, journalists and educators are working overtime to tell us that Brown v. Board of Education was written with an asterisk.
A Wall Street Journal report on Sunday celebrated an Evanston, Illinois, program through which students can opt-in to racially segregated “affinity classes.” Black-only English? Check. There’s even an AP calculus class for Latino students who, according to Evanston superintendent Marcus Campbell, might feel “anxious” learning integrals alongside their black peers.
This perverse approach to education isn’t illegal, according to the Journal. No, the paper framed this sort of discrimination as a bold, constitutionally kosher effort to boost the performance of minority students: “Federal antidiscrimination laws prevent public schools from mandatorily separating students by race, but education lawyers say optional courses can comply with the law.”
It is not clear who those unnamed lawyers were or what they told the nation’s second-largest newspaper. The Journal did not respond to a request for comment.
But the attorneys we spoke with—they did provide their names—were flabbergasted by the notion that black-only courses, even voluntary ones like Evanston’s, would hold up in court.
William Trachman, a former official in the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, said that the Title VI law that bans race discrimination by federally funded programs “does not distinguish between mandatory and optional activities.” And David Bernstein, an expert on civil rights law at George Mason Law School, said the segregated courses were “blatantly unconstitutional.”
“There is no way that could possibly pass legal muster if someone sued,” he told the Washington Free Beacon. A spokesman for the Evanston school district did not respond to a request for comment.
Whether or not these programs are tossed out in court, it is chilling to see the pervasiveness of a new ideology of “separate but equal” on the left. Racially segregated classes are now available in Minneapolis, Seattle, San Francisco, and Oakland. In Evanston itself, the program at issue represents an extension of an initiative last spring in which two math classes were restricted to “students who identify as black,” on the one hand, and “to students who identify as Latinx.”
“A lot of times within our education system, Black students are expected to conform to a white standard,” Dena Luna, who designed black-only courses in Minneapolis, told the Journal.
That is the contradiction at the heart of this sordid enterprise. Administrators like Luna insist, at one turn, that segregation is necessary to boost the grades and test scores of minority students, then decry those metrics as tools of white oppression at another. The war on standards has already killed middle school algebra in California and traditional grading in parts of Virginia. Now, as schools revive Jim Crow-era practices in the name of “equity,” integrated classrooms could be the next casualty.